The Person in Situation

It’s never entirely the situation and it’s never entirely the person. So much of what is truly interesting lies between the person and the situation. It is the mix that determines whether things go well or go badly.

The chart shows a person quality—Attachment Anxiety—and a workgroup quality—Psychological Safety.

Attachment anxiety is the extent to which people approach the social work lacking confidence. People scoring high on this quality are exceptionally concerned with the possibility rejection or humiliation. Psychological safety is the quality of a workgroup. Groups that score high on Psychological Safety encourage open, honest expression of views; those low on this quality are intolerant of dissent or diversity of opinion.

The indicator for this graph is coworker incivility—the frequency of encountering rude or thoughtless behavior from colleagues.

Interaction psyc safe and attach anxiety

The graph make the point that a group low in psychological safety (the blue line) is a less civil place than one high in psychological safety (the orange line). However, the very problematic mix occurs for people who have a high level of attachment anxiety in a psychologically unsafe workgroup. The dot on the upper right part of the graph indicates incivility that is roughly double the rate for that of people low on anxiety in psychologically unsafe workgroups.

This pattern provides two routes to action.

1. Team building efforts towards increasing psychological safety could reduce uncivil encounters as can intense interventions, such as CREW.

2. Greater insight into attachment anxiety could help people manage their participation in their workgroups.

Workplace civility and respect can be improved, but there is no simple solution. A mix of approaches focusing on both the individuals and their workgroup dynamics can make a real difference.

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